October 10–11, 2013, National Building Museum, Washington, DC
Thursday, October 10
Symposium MC: Jack Sullivan, FAAR, FASLA, Associate Professor, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, University of Maryland
Opening Keynote:Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.: Bridging Professions and Eras. Thomas J. Campanella, PhD, FAAR, Associate Professor, Cornell University, College of Architecture, Art, and Planning
- This lecture will explore the vital role that Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. played as a bridge between the field of landscape architecture and the American urban planning profession, which he helped establish in the first decade of the 20th century. It will also probe Olmsted's critical role in bridging the aesthetic and philosophical fault lines that split the landscape profession in that period that Architectural Record described in 1902 as the "hot fight . . . between the advocates of the formal and the so-called 'natural' garden." While a small but powerful Harvard-based contingent clung to the elder Olmsted's Anglo-Romantic legacy of public park design, a more youthful New York contingent set aside the profession's reformist idealism to focus instead on creating neo-Renaissance "Country Places" for the nouveau riche. Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. was among the few practitioners in that fractious era who moved easily between these two camps, and who mentored a new generation of brilliant young designers that would resurrect the profession's legacy of social reform and public works in the 1930s and beyond. Download Presentation
Park Systems and Provision of Public Space
- Frederick Law OlmstedJr. and the Park System of the Nation’s Capital. Timothy Davis, PhD, Lead Historian for Park Historic Structures & Cultural Landscapes Program, U.S. National Park Service
- Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.’s association with the park system of Washington, D.C. is analogous to his father’s relationship with New York’s Central and Prospect Parks. Not only did the younger Olmsted play a prominent role in shaping the city’s preeminent public spaces, but the experience fundamentally influenced the young landscape architect’s career and, by extension, the rise of city planning as a professional practice and social force. Heeding the lessons of the late Charles Eliot rather than the oft-cited influence of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, Olmsted’s Washington work extended the legacy of the nineteenth-century park movement while expanding its scope to encompass an ever-broadening array of practical and social concerns. Chronicling this chapter in Olmsted’s career underscores the pivotal role he played in the development of the nation’s capital along with his broader contributions to the evolution of American city planning and landscape design. Download Presentation
- On the Development of Greater Baltimore. David Holden, AICP, Landscape Architect and Planner
- Cited by Olmsted himself in the late 1930s as “one of the finest plans of its kind I ever did”, the 1904 Report Upon the Development of Public Grounds for Baltimore was more than a “parks” plan. This session will focus on the key aim of the 1904 Report: demonstrating how establishing a park system—including extensive natural reservations that reach far beyond the city itself—was a vital means of structuring a better city and region. Most of the 1904 Report was directed to areas outside the existing city of the time. The report showed how, as the city acquired outlying reservations and built the boulevards and parkways recommended, it would create a more efficient and more attractive framework for its inevitable growth. The 1904 Report was only one of many projects of the Olmsted firm in Baltimore from 1900 up until World War II, but it was perhaps the most significant with regard to its scope and in establishing “city planning” as a necessary part of city governance and improving the quality of urban living. Download Presentation
- Read David Holden's Essay, More than Parks: Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., the Advancement of City Planning, and the Baltimore that Needed It
This session was presented in memory of Morton “Jerry” Baum, a friend and longtime trustee of the National Association for Olmsted Parks. Jerry was a passionate advocate for the legacy of the Olmsted firm in Baltimore and throughout North America.
10:45 am–12:15 pm
Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. and the American City—Panel Session
- In the early 20th century the city itself became Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.’s focus of inquiry and activity as he took a leadership role in the emergent profession of city planning. His city plans sought to coordinate the diverse interests that make up the American metropolis and to provide a consistent framework that could guide ambitious infrastructure investment. These plans remain essential documents of the Progressive quest to bring together aesthetics, engineering, politics and planning into a consistent urban vision.
- Panelists: Alexander Garvin, urban planner, educator, author; adjunct professor at the Yale School of Architecture. Arleyn Levee, landscape historian and preservation consultant, specializing in the work of the Olmsted Brothers firm. Peter Pollock, FAICP, urban planner and Fellow at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. Download Alexander Garvin's Presentation / Download Arleyn Levee's Presentation / Download Peter Pollock's Presentation
- Moderator: Robert Fishman, PhD, Professor of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Michigan.
Keynote: Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. and the Profession of Landscape Architecture. Laurie D. Olin, FASLA, Landscape Architect.
- Frederick Law Olmsted Sr. is credited with initiating the field of landscape architecture in America. Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. continued this activity. He was largely responsible for the development of landscape architecture as a profession, for its rapid evolution as a university course of study, and for the development of city planning as a profession and academic degree program. He worked tirelessly in creating the national park system, and served the public interest at a metropolitan, state and national level on numerous commissions and boards. We are the inheritors today of a legacy of physical projects, government policy, academic fields, and professional methods Olmsted created and nurtured. A survey of his work in the early 20th century reads like a blueprint for the field and a summary of the activity and ambitions in academic departments and professional offices today. Like his father, Olmsted believed that a fundamental justification for landscape farchitecture lay in public health and the need for human contact with natural elements within cities, and that in addition to being spiritually invigorating, landscapes must be functional to justify the financial instruments and political will required to secure their construction and maintenance. Virtually the same arguments of Olmsted Senior, Junior, and Charles Eliot were promulgated by Ian McHarg in what proved to be a second coming of their sweeping vision. Recently the field has been much in the news as landscape architects once more are working at all scales on urban infrastructure, resource management, and the design of environments for a plurality of purposes. The talk will discuss examples of current practice and the curricula and political jousting in academia around the topic of landscape urbanism, concluding that the breadth of Olmsted’s vision remains both pertinent and much in play in the field today. Download Presentation
Designing Design: Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. and the Creation of the Landscape School at Harvard University. Elizabeth Hope Cushing, PhD, Landscape Historian.
- By the end of the nineteenth century, landscape architecture was slipping out of the shadow of architectural practice, distancing itself from the designation “landscape gardening,” and seeking to establish itself as an independent field of endeavor. Growing interest in it as a profession meant that the standard procedures for becoming a landscape architect, being self-taught or submitting to an informal system of apprenticeship, were no longer adequate. The time for a professional four-year landscape architecture program had arrived and Charles William Eliot, president of Harvard University, decided it was his institution that would best serve that demand. By 1899 he was also convinced that it was Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. whom he wished to establish such a course of study. Olmsted Jr.’s decision to take up the mantle assured that he would be a powerful force in training the next generation of landscape architects in America. Download Presentation
Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.: Nature, People and Places—Panel Session
- Desiring not to separate the park from activities of the city or place Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. designed landscapes to be assimilated into the built environment. His social consciousness and commitment to egalitarian designs shape a continuing legacy to nature, people and places embodied in the idea that a “public park” is common green space accessible to all citizens. This session draws on the Olmsted legacy and principles and his continuing contribution to contemporary applications to build new park systems and interconnected parkways. His commitment to conservation and reliance on naturally occurring features of a place undergirds many of today’s plans focusing on the design of the whole from the city to the region.
- The New York Regional Plan. Robert Yaro, President, Regional Plan Association.
- Between 1922 and 1929, the Regional Plan Association created the world's first metropolitan strategic plan. RPA's goal was to enable the nation's largest urban region to accommodate a projected doubling of its population by 1965 while preserving its natural resources and improving its standard of living and quality of life. It hired Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. to lead the plan's ambitious goal of creating a network of connected regional and state parks and parkways and providing urban residents—and in particular those who owned automobiles—with access to the region's beaches, rivers, mountains and countryside. In addition, Olmsted prepared model open space zoning bylaws to protect farm and forest land in the region's burgeoning suburbs. By 1941 through the leadership of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Robert Moses and Fiorello LaGuardia and their counterparts in New Jersey and Connecticut, the New York Region developed the nation's largest network of state and regional parks and parkways, largely organized around RPA's plan and Olmsted's vision. These achievements created precedents for park and conservation strategies in other metropolitan areas across Postwar America. Download Presentation
- Comparing Park Systems in Louisville and Birmingham: As Built, and As Envisioned. Eric Tamulonis, ASLA, LEED AP, Principal, Wallace Roberts & Todd LLC.; Dan Jones, PhD, Chairman and CEO, 21st Century Parks; Philip Morris, Honorary ASLA, former Executive Editor of Southern Living Magazine. Download Panelists' Presentation
- Working in the era of the “recreational reform park”, as defined by Galen Cranz, Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. helped to systematize the approach to municipal park and recreation planning. Two cities provide a contrasting view of his father’s approach rooted in the 19th century tradition he pioneered, and the early 20th century approach. Building on his father’s 1893 system plan for Louisville, Olmsted Jr. provides a finer grain of public amenity by way of community and neighborhood parks, recreation grounds and squares. Progressing to a more comprehensive, statistically-based approach to addressing municipal recreation needs, Olmsted Jr. created a comprehensive system plan for Birmingham, and also addressed long term regional growth and recreation needs by targeting a range of park opportunities well beyond the city. These two cities have recently expanded ambitiously upon their prior Olmsted systems in ways that reinforce the legacy and provide lessons for other communities.
- Moderator: Dr. Catherine Ross, Professor of City and Regional Planning and Director, Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development, Georgia Institute of Technology.
The Politics of Planning—Panel Session
- Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. lived in an era of big plans, and his legacy lies in the large-scale accomplishments that still define so many of our landscapes. Our own dreams are no smaller, however, and our challenges are if anything more severe. From climate change to energy use to public health to all the flavors of sustainability, effective action today requires large-scale collaborative planning.
But how do we actually enact bold and wide-ranging plans that work on many scales and across countless jurisdictions? How do we build confidence in our governments and in our mechanisms? How do we foster collaboration among constituents who are more often in conflict? In what ways can planners and other practitioners learn from and build on not just the work but the mindset of Olmsted Jr.?
- Panelists: Dan Kildee, Congressman, 5th District, Michigan. Harriet Tregoning, Director of the DC Office of Planning, Washington, DC. Karen Walz, FAICP, Principal, Strategic Community Solutions. Download Harriet Tregoning's Presentation / Download Karen Walz' Presentation
- Moderator: Timothy Mennel, Senior Acquisitions Editor, University of Chicago Press.
This project has been funded in part by the National Trust for Historic Preservation through the Henry A. Jordan, M.D. Preservation Fund and Dorothea DeSchweinitz Fund for the District of Columbia.
Friday, October 11
9 am–3 pm, leaving from and returning to the National Building Museum
Bus/Walking Tour: Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.'s Enduring Influence on Washington D.C. — Note: Because of the shutdown of the federal government, the tour was canceled except for the portion at the National Cathedral grounds, which was led by the All Hallows Guild.
In 1901, Congress appointed Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. to the Senate Park Commission, formed by Senator James McMillan to plan a comprehensive park system for the nation’s capital. Olmsted not only helped develop the McMillan Plan but guided its execution by serving, between 1910 and 1932, on the two federal oversight bodies for planning Washington: the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Park Planning Commission. As either adviser or designer, Olmsted worked on many prominent Washington landmarks, including the National Mall, Rock Creek Park and the Rock Creek Parkway, the White House grounds, the Federal Triangle, the Jefferson Memorial, Theodore Roosevelt Island, the McMillan Reservoir and the National Cathedral grounds.
Experience Olmsted’s lasting influence on shaping Washington, D.C., and how the organizations charged with managing this legacy are preserving his work while addressing current design, planning, public use and management issues.
The tour will begin at the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts office with a session overview and opportunity to view large-scale McMillan Plan illustrations. Tour stops include Union Square, the National Mall, the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, the Tidal Basin and the National Cathedral grounds, as well as contemporary projects like the Mall turf renovation, the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial, the World War II memorial, and discussion of future concepts and visions for the capital city.
- National Association for Olmsted Parks—Iris Gestram, Executive Director
- U.S. Commission of Fine Arts—Thomas Luebke, Secretary
- Trust for the National Mall—Teresa Durkin, Senior Project Director
- National Park Service—Maureen Joseph, Regional Historical Landscape Architect, and Susan Spain, Project Executive, The National Mall Plan
- All Hallows Guild, National Cathedral - Dede Petri
- Presented by:
$50 per person; includes bus transportation, box lunch, and bottled water; Tour limit: 45 participants